In 2018 Mark Zuckerberg showed the world how a steady stream of blunders and insensitivity to consumers’ concerns over privacy and fake news has tragically damaged trust in the Facebook brand. Facebook Over Privacy and Fake News- The Facebook founder and CEO essentially traded a core value, privacy, for profits. His performance last year provides a classic case study for all companies on how to manage brand risk, or at least what not to do.
Facebook’s new mission statement says it seeks “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”.
A brand is basically a promise designed to create a trustful bond with customers. Facebook users provide personal data with the expectation and trust that Facebook’s promise to build this community would be delivered with full privacy protection.
However, Zuckerberg’s actions in 2018 have created a perception that he has chosen profits over people, a misalignment negatively viewed by the public that is tarnishing Facebook’s brand reputation.
In general, the brand risks from social media firms like Facebook have become more disconcerting, as users all over the world have become aware of the cyber security issues and how easily their private data can be exposed.
The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer found that trust in social media is only 41% globally. With this declining trust, consumers have become intent on wanting brands to pressure social media platforms to more effectively:
• Safeguard personal data – 71%
• Curb the spread of fake news – 70%
• Shield them from offensive content – 68%
The deceitful performance of Zuckerberg last year has undermined trust in Facebook and reminded many of his arrogant behavior portrayed in the movie “The Social Network”.
It started early last year when it was revealed that a third party had gained access to the personal data of 87 million Facebook users in 2015, but the company did little to address this. It seemed there was a privacy or fake news scandal every month in 2018. A few highlights:
• March – the world learned that Facebook exposed private data from 50 million users to an academic researcher who sold it to the analytical firm, Cambridge Analytica. Facebook Over Privacy and Fake News– Upsetting consumers more was the fact that this data was used in Trump’s Presidential advertising campaign.
• April – appearing before Congress, Zuckerberg tried to convince the world that Facebook “doesn’t sell data” to advertisers, stating this 8 times in a condescending way. This may be technically true, but the public didn’t buy it in light of the sad reality of these data breaches.
• July – when Zuckerberg was asked why he would not ban an extreme conspiracy theory guy like Alex Jones, he dug himself a deeper hole by bringing up Holocaust deniers as an example of false news he would not take down. This explanation resulted in Facebook suffering the biggest stock sell-off in U.S. history, down $119 billion in one day, reflecting investors’ losing faith in the brand.
• December – despite ongoing promises by Zuckerberg to add controls for privacy, it was disclosed that Facebook continued to grant access to personal data to other tech firms like Microsoft, Amazon, and Spotify.
This disturbing practice of making promises but not delivering on them has freaked out users, as well as the Congress which is calling for greater oversight and stricter privacy laws. Zuckerberg may not have blatantly lied, but he was not forthcoming with the whole truth and his statements were often misleading, even deceitful. Facebook has since acknowledged that it cannot maximize both privacy and profits at the same time.
So what can we learn from this steady flow of brand risk scandals? Some suggestions:
- Preparation – clearly Facebook underestimated their ability to control access to private data and the adverse reaction from consumers when these data breaches were exposed. A detailed assessment of such vulnerabilities would have led to a more observant company culture and tighter controls throughout.
- Timing and Credibility of Responses – after each scandal, Facebook waited several days to officially respond. These delays allowed the bad news to spread and fester, exacerbating the growing perception of deceit. While Zuckerberg did eventually admit fault (“I’m responsible for… ), he should have been more specific.
- Apologize Convincingly – a sincere, direct apology can be a credible gesture of humility as the first step in restoring trust, something Zuckerberg never adequately conveyed.
- Proactive Redemption – perhaps most important, detailed corrective action must be outlined to convince users that these problems would never happen again. Such preventative steps represent a promise which must be delivered, something Facebook failed to do.
Social media is a powerful, engaging and enjoyable communication tool, but success will be accomplished only if users trust the brand behind it. It is not only what a brand says; more important is what it does. This defines a brand’s integrity and trust.
This year has not been too kind to Facebook, with the news about Cambridge Analytica and Mark Zuckerberg being asked to testify in front of Congress. Zuckerberg and his team used it as an opportunity to change the Facebook algorithms, again, and this can still bode well for your nonprofit if you’re smart about it.
The big news was that Facebook decided to focus on local news and events. Alex Hardiman and Campbell Brown of Facebook announced, “Now, people around the world will see more news on Facebook from local sources covering their current city and other cities they may care about.”
The reason this was done was that after the disastrous press and scrutiny they received about user data and privacy, the focus on more local news content for their users was viewed as a smarter approach to ensure their AI could better root out low quality and “fake news” content.
Whether this, in fact, occurs remains to be seen. However, it’s a change that can benefit nonprofits if they are savvy enough to make news in their local areas.
Additionally, there was also a change in Facebook’s algorithms that Zuckerberg announced in the first month of 2018 stating that the social media giant was going to get back to basics. It was going to prioritize posts from friends and family as opposed to brands. Initially, this announcement sent shudders in brands, until they figured out how to go about capitalizing on the changes. You too can do the same thing for your nonprofit organization.
How to Make Facebook Work for You
We know that through the years Facebook has been tweaking its algorithms to make organic reach harder to come by for brands. In the good old days, your brand was able to have a high-level of organic reach about the work of your nonprofit. Today, organic reach is in the low single percentile digit and declining, and some experts argue that Facebook and other platforms will continue to have their AI throttle any organic reach to zero, which will then force every brand to “pay to play.”
85 percent of videos on Facebook are viewed with the sound turned off. When you’re creating video content, keep that in mind. How can you leave an impression visually?
Make content that is specific to Facebook using best practice for getting engagement. For Facebook, it means keeping it short and sweet on the copy, using videos or great photographic images and if you’re using a hashtag, using no more than one.
This isn’t Instagram!
Be smart about getting on people’s newsfeed. If you have essential value-add information that people might want to see, it’s probably worth paying for it to get onto people’s newsfeeds. You have the opportunity to sponsor posts and place ads, so be prepared to spend money, but do it wisely and plan it out as much as possible, so you receive the biggest bang for the buck.
If you have more news about your organization, including new staff, location moves, successful completion of fundraisers, create a press release and pitch the news to local media. Remember, Facebook is prioritizing local news and if you have a chance to get featured in a news media story that’s a great way to get people to learn about your news!
When you’re creating video content, figure out ways to tell a story. When you’re conveying a story or narrative about your organization, you are increasing the opportunity for people to want to see it. 80 percent of decision-making begins with emotion followed by rationalization.
Most nonprofits have a great story and if they can translate it into a live video that’s even better. Mark Zuckerberg stated plainly that brands, “should encourage meaningful interactions between people… We’ve seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones.”
Leverage Facebook with other platforms. For instance, if you’ve seen in your Facebook analytics that your videos and live streams are having a high level of engagement, don’t remain only on Facebook. Consider sharing that kind of content on Instagram as well.